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28.05.2018 | Original Article | Ausgabe 6/2018

International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health 6/2018

Recovery from work-related stress: a randomized controlled trial of a stress management intervention in a clinical sample

International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health > Ausgabe 6/2018
David J. Glasscock, Ole Carstensen, Vita Ligaya Dalgaard



Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of interventions aimed at reducing work-related stress indicate that cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is more effective than other interventions. However, definitions of study populations are often unclear and there is a lack of interventions targeting both the individual and the workplace. The aim of this study was to determine whether a stress management intervention combining individual CBT and a workplace focus is superior to no treatment in the reduction of perceived stress and stress symptoms and time to lasting return to work (RTW) in a clinical sample.


Patients with work-related stress reactions or adjustment disorders were randomly assigned to an intervention group (n = 57, 84.2% female) or a control group (n = 80, 83.8% female). Subjects were followed via questionnaires and register data. The intervention contained individual CBT and the offer of a workplace meeting. We examined intervention effects by analysing group differences in score changes on the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS-10) and the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-30). We also tested if intervention led to faster lasting RTW.


Mean baseline values of PSS were 24.79 in the intervention group and 23.26 in the control group while the corresponding values for GHQ were 21.3 and 20.27, respectively. There was a significant effect of time. 10 months after baseline, both groups reported less perceived stress and improved mental health. 4 months after baseline, we found significant treatment effects for both perceived stress and mental health. The difference in mean change in PSS after 4 months was − 3.09 (− 5.47, − 0.72), while for GHQ it was − 3.91 (− 7.15, − 0.68). There were no group differences in RTW.


The intervention led to faster reductions in perceived stress and stress symptoms amongst patients with work-related stress reactions and adjustment disorders. 6 months after the intervention ended there were no longer differences between the groups.

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